I've just entered my very first marathon! It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl. I was big into athletics during school and had juvenile dreams of winning The Comrades. I figured, if I'm going to conquer this mountain, I might as well do it for a cause so I've chosen to raise awareness (and funds) for mental health and wellbeing.
I recently heard a statistic that the second highest cause of death between people aged 15-29 is suicide. Not surprising giving that depression is probably the fastest growing illness of our time. It makes me absolutely sick to still hear people say that depression doesn't exist. I've heard people say it, while little did they know, their loved ones were showing all the common signs of depression. The sad reality is that for those people, they may only realise depression exists when their loved one takes their own life, or when they succumb to depression themselves.
Health and wellness has become one of my greatest passions in life. In the last 4 years, I've dived deeper and deeper into all things related to the topic from exercise to yoga, to a plant based diet. Influenced, no doubt, by the people I follow on social media who all seem to be following a similar course.
This journey has taken place because in my 3 years at university I fell, for the first time in my life, into a very bad mental state. I knew very little about mental health at the time. While studying I worked a part time job as an aupair. For three years my life went like this: design school in the mornings, aupairing in the afternoons and then working late into the night to complete assignments. On weekends, I always had to catch up what I didn't get to in the week. I had to take a part time job in order to pay for my monthly expenses but also because I wanted to pay off my student loan as quickly as possible. I barely exercised. My social life was not the best. I found I missed out on the social opportunities that varsity offers as I always had to rush off to get to work. I'm not complaining but I would like to provide a context to my story. Although it took my time away from my assignments and social life, aupairing turned out to be the most wonderful break from my studies as I got to sit outside watching Ryan play cricket, play hockey in the garden or bake with Sarah. The three amazing kids allowed me to laugh and get my mind off my assignments.
I was very successful in my studies. I was used to being a high achiever, having been hockey captain in high school, winning most of my athletic races and being a prefect. In varsity, my success continued. I achieved straight A's on my transcript. I was 2nd runner up in the PG Bison Awards and the winner of the Visi Haute Lumiere competition. I thought I'd go into working life rapidly climbing the ladder and being a very successful designer. Imagine my surprise, when all that ambition slipped away in a second. In the big world, I no longer had star badges, medals and awards to win. Of course I could climb the corporate ladder but it takes a hell of a lot longer to achieve than a medal in high school. If you do get a promotion, you don't have a magazine writing about you or an audience clapping. Only your closest circle praises you. I moulded perfectly into the reward based system of high school and grading. Chris and I always talk about it now because he always rebelled against it and because of that he didn't experience half the emotions I did when entering life after school and uni. In adult life, you don't get rewarded frequently and it made me question what drove my achievements.
As I started my working life, I started to reflect on my mental health during university. I had very clearly been depressed. I never went to see anyone and I didn't speak about it all that much but I did do many online questionnaires where I could tick which symptoms I was feeling. The results always confirmed I had, had depression. I wanted to see someone but my student budget couldn't afford to pay their fees. I only realised something was wrong when one night after crying myself to sleep (which I had been doing every night for months), it dawned on me that there was a time I used to never cry before bed. Something was not right. This was not healthy. When I was in that space, I had no desire to leave the house and be with friends. I often used to wish while driving that someone would crash into me and I'd end up in hospital. I thought about becoming bulimic. I see this now as needing a plea for help. I desperately wanted someone to give attention to my mental suffering but how could people know, to the outside world, I appeared perfectly normal.
I started to gain knowledge on the subject and empower my mind. I came to the conclusion that depression is like having a goggo (pronounced, gho-gho, meaning, bug) in your mind. The goggo is not your brain but it infiltrates your mind and has the power to control it. You believe that the goggo's thoughts are your thoughts. To get out of my mental state, every time I thought something bad I told the goggo to shut up. I told myself that I wasn't created to live unhappily on earth. Who ever created me wanted me to experience happiness on earth.
I'd like to disclaim that I'm absolutely aware my depression was minor in comparison to others and by no means wish to make light of the subject. My aim is rather, to raise awareness. Many people are not physically able to pull themselves out of that dark space and for those people, professional help is vital. Those online questionnaires were my saving grace. If you're in a dark space and you're not comfortable talking about it. Start by identifying how you feel, google depression and you'll find so many resources online. Know that, with help, you don't have to suffer.
I was fortunate enough to pull myself out of the hole by exercising regularly. My goal around exercise has dramatically changed since. While the benefits are there, I no longer exercise for my physical appearance but rather for the good it does to mind. When I'm feeling down, I'll simply go for a walk or jump on the spot and I feel so much better for it.
Most importantly, I realised how stress in varsity had caused my mental downfall and that I never ever wanted to allow my career, my studies, my life circumstances to put me in that space again. In my first year of work, that was a big pill to swallow. Friends were getting dream jobs and working much longer hours than me. They definitely earned way more than I did at my first job. But for me it was more important to have a job where my stress levels were manageable and one where my work hours were respected. I was very fortunate that all the jobs I worked allowed me that space. I still question whether I'm lacking in ambition and I have to remind myself what my metrics for success are. Yours might be to have a fancy car and a large pay-cheque. That's totally great if you're built for it. I'm simply not. When I'm stressed, I don't sleep well, I crave all the sugary foods and I'm usually in a foul mood. I've had to accept that I don't manage stress well. So my goals have changed, all I want in life is to be happy, content and kind to others. If that's what I achieve in life, according to my metric, I've lived very successfully.
I've been vulnerable today. The most vulnerable I've ever been on my blog. It’s very scary but I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it might help someone else. And if that someone is you, I'm running a marathon, a whole 21km, just for you!
I'm looking for a mental health organisation that I can raise funds for on my 21km journey. If you've got any charities to recommend, please drop me a comment below.
Love and light.